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Full text of "Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina"

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Fred A. Seaton, Secretary 


Conrad L. Wirth, Director 


This publication is one of a series of handbooks describing the 
historical and archeological areas in the National Park System 
administered by the National Park Service of the United States 
Department of the Interior. It is printed by .the Government 
Printing Office and may be purchased from the Superintendent of 
Documents, Washington 25, D. C. Price 25 cents. 

Kings ^Mountain 


South Carolina 

by George C. Mackenzie 


Washington, D. C, 1955 

(Revised 1956) 

The National Park System, of which Kings Mountain 
National Military Park is a unit, is dedicated to 
conserving the scenic, scientific, and historic heritage oj the 
United States for the benefit and inspiration oj its people. 























The United States Monument, erected 1909. 

''THE BATTLE OF KINGS MOUNTAIN on October 7, 1780, 
-■- was an overwhelming blow struc\ by American patriots against 
British forces engaged in the relentless Southern Campaign of the 
American Revolution. The military importance of this sharp engage- 
ment was described in strong and realistic terms by Sir Henry Clinton, 
then commander in chief of the British forces in North America. He 
spoke of the battle as "an Event which was immediately productive of 
the worst Consequences to the King s affairs in South Carolina, and 
unhappily proved the first Lin\ of a Chain of Evils that followed each 
other in regular Succession until they at last ended in the total loss of 

Kings Mountain was a surprising action that halted the triumphant 
northward movement of Lord Cornwallis, British commander in 
the South, who had undertaken to subdue that section in a final effort 
to end the Revolution. Though far removed from the main course of 
the Revolution, the hardy southern Appalachian frontiersmen rose 
quickly to their own defense at Kings Mountain and brought unex- 
pected defeat to Cornwallis' Tory invaders under Maj. Patrick Fergu- 
son. With this great patriot victory came an immediate turn of events 
in the war in the South. Cornwallis abandoned his foothold in North 
Carolina and withdrew to a defensive position in upper South Carolina 
to await reinforcement. His northward march was thus delayed until 
January 178 1, giving patriot forces an opportunity to organize a new 
offensive in the South. After Kings Mountain there also came a 
sharp upturn of patriot spirit in the Southern Piedmont which com- 
pletely unnerved the Tory organization in the region. This renewed 
patriot resistance led eventually to the American victory at Yorktown 
in 1781. The engagement at Kings Mountain was not only a memor- 
able example of the individual valor of the American frontier fighter, 
but also of the deadly effectiveness of his hunting rifle. 

Sir Henry Clinton, commander in chief 
of British Forces in America during the 
Southern Campaign. Courtesy New York 
Historical Society. 

The War in the South Begins 

At the outbreak of the American Revolution in 1775 the struggle be- 
tween the American patriots and British forces was fought mainly in 
the New England and Middle Atlantic colonies. The driving of the 
royal governors from North and South Carolina soon revealed to the 
British the importance of holding the southern provinces. Early in 
1776 the British War Office sent a combined military and naval expedi- 
tion to the coast of the Carolinas in an effort to restore the King's 
authority. Hopes of gaining a foothold in North Carolina were 
quickly shattered. Patriot militia decisively defeated loyalists of the 
Cape Fear area on February 27, at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge. 
Sir Henry Clinton, who had landed a small force near Wilmington, 
withdrew from the State. Clinton, and the British fleet under Sir Peter 
Parker, then undertook the conquest of Charleston, S. C. The suc- 
cessful defense of Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, at the entrance 
to Charleston Harbor, closed with the brilliant American victory of 
June 28. Thoroughly discouraged, the British expedition left the 
South and the first attempt to conquer it ended in failure. 

The Southern Campaign 

In 1778 the British again turned to the South in their final major cam- 
paign to end the American Revolution. Military failures in the North 
during 1777-78 and a strong belief in southern loyalist strength en- 

couraged the British War Office to undertake a full-scale southern 
invasion in the autumn of 1778. The American-French alliance fol- 
lowing the British defeat at Saratoga and the threat of French inter- 
vention also made it urgent for the British to move southward. They 
hoped to obtain food and recruits in the South and an effective base 
from which to attack the remaining patriot armies in the East. A 
British military and naval expedition was also to assemble in the 
Chesapeake Bay area and from that point aid the British forces in 
the South to crush patriot resistance. This time the British were 
confident of success. They strongly doubted that the South, thinly 
populated and torn by sectional strife between patriot and loyalist 
groups, could unite and fight off the invader. 

Conquest of Georgia and South Carolina 

The ports of Savannah and Charleston were vitally needed to support 
the new invasion and the British set out first to capture them. At the 
direction of Sir Henry Clinton, the first British landing was made in 
Georgia, and Savannah fell on December 29, 1778. By February 
1779, Augusta and other key points in the State were captured, and 
by summer the British dominated Georgia. Their first move against 
Charleston ended in failure in June 1779, but they successfully fore- 
stalled a combined French and American attempt to recapture 
Savannah in the fall of that year. 

The fortunes of war turned further against the southern patriots 
in 1780. Returning to Charleston in the spring of 1780, Clinton 
besieged the city with overwhelming numbers and forced the surrender 

Lt. Gen. Earl Charles Cornwallis, 
British commander in the South, 1 780- 
81. Courtesy Clements Library, Univer- 
sity of Michigan. 

British campaign in the Carolinas during 1780 before the Battle of Kings 

of Gen. Benjamin Lincoln's American garrison on May 12. The loss 
of this large, well-equipped army was a marked disaster for the patriot 
cause in the South and greatly strengthened the British position in 
South Carolina. Soon Clinton could depart for New York by sea, 
leaving Lord Cornwallis in command of a large British force which in 
a few months quickly occupied fortified points in much of the State. 
Believing South Carolina to be largely subdued, Cornwallis now 
began a northward march for the purpose of invading and over- 
running North Carolina. His plans were upset temporarily by the 
advance of a new American army under the command of Gen. Horatio 
Gates, the patriot victor at Saratoga. Appointed by Congress to suc- 
ceed General Lincoln as American commander in the South, Gates 
had reached North Carolina in July. Moving southward to capture 

Gen. Horatio Gates, American com- 
mander in the South during most of 
1780. Courtesy Emmet Collection, New 
York Public Library. 

the important British post of Camden, S. G, he commanded an army 
composed of veteran Delaware and Maryland continental troops and 
raw Virginia and North Carolina militia. In a surprise meeting for 
both forces near Camden on August 16, 1780, Gates' tired and dis- 

Scene at the Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, which gave the British almost 
complete control of South Carolina. From a painting by Chappel. Courtesy The 
Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina, Columbia. 




organized army was crushingly defeated by Cornwallis. The last 
large organized American army in the South had been destroyed, and 
the British, more than ever before, appeared to be invincible. Their 
triumph at Camden opened the way for the resumption of Cornwallis' 
triumphant march and the invasion of North Carolina in September 

Whigs and Tories in ij8o 

The British victories at Charleston and Camden in the summer of 
1780 increased the bitter strife between the loyalists (Tories) and the 
patriots (Whigs) in the South. Both groups had been active in parti- 
san warfare since the invasion of Georgia in 1778. Cornwallis' march 
through South Carolina greatly encouraged the Tories. Many of 
them from the coastal and interior regions of the Carol inas now joined 
him as active recruits. Overawed by British force, other inhabitants 
of this area renewed their allegiance to the King or remained neutral 
to escape damage to themselves and their property. To counteract the 
Loyalist movement, daring partisan leaders including Francis Marion, 
Thomas Sumter, and Andrew Pickens, now took the leadership in 
strengthening Whig resistance. Desperate and unexpected assaults 
by day and night upon the advancing British and their outposts quickly 
began throughout the lowlands and upcountry. While Cornwallis 
was gathering supporters by threats and force or by allowing only 
Loyalists to trade, the Whigs remained steadfast in their devotion to 
personal and political freedom. Soon the merciless nature of the Tory 
attacks upon outlying Whig settlements and Whig guerrilla fighters 
so disgusted the neutral citizens of the region that many of them 
turned to the Whig cause. 

The seriousness of the day-to-day combat between Whig and Tory 
in the Carolinas is shown in a military report of the time: 

The animosity between the Whigs and Tories of this State renders their 
situation truly deplorable. There is not a day passes but there are more 
or less who fall a sacrifice to this savage disposition. The Whigs seem 
determined to extirpate the Tories and the Tories the Whigs. Some 
thousands have fallen in this way in this quarter, and the evil rages 
with more violence than ever. If a stop cannot be put to these massacres, 
the country will be depopulated in a few months more, as neither Whig 
nor Tory can live. 

The southern Whigs included among their numbers both rich and 
poor. They were people who placed principle above personal gain. 
They came, or were descended from people who had come, from 
Western Europe to America to escape religious and civil persecution 
and to find a new life where the dignity of the individual would be 

Among these immigrants were numerous Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. 
They had settled first in the eastern sections of Pennsylvania and 
Virginia. Later, they migrated in considerable numbers to the interior 
of the Carolinas and present-day eastern Tennessee. As they cleared 
new land for settlement and established their churches, they enjoyed 
for the first time complete religious and civil liberty. Moreover, they 
believed in the family as the important unit in all human life and 
patterned their lives accordingly. The invasion of the South now 
threatened to destroy their democratic society. They also feared it 
would lead to the loss of their hard-won individual liberty and force 

Recruits for the British Army. Drawing by H. W. Bunbury, London, 1780. Courtesy 
New York Public Library. 


them to give up their right to develop the frontier and its resources 
as they wished. 

The British Threaten the Carolina Frontier 

When Cornwallis began his march from Charleston, Maj. Patrick 
Ferguson had been detached to lead a smaller Loyalist force into the 
western section of South Carolina. Ferguson was ordered to use the 
settlement of Ninety-Six as a base from which to organize Tory 
militia, subdue rebellious Whigs, and reestablish British civil govern- 
ment in the upcountry. He was also to protect the western flank of 
Cornwallis' advancing army. 

One important stronghold in the Carolinas remained undisturbed 
by Cornwallis' victories and the Tory raids in the summer of 1780. 
This was the region of the foothills and ranges of the Appalachian 
Mountains which stretched through northwestern South Carolina, 
western North Carolina, and into the present eastern Tennessee. Here, 
the independent mountain yeomen, largely of Scotch-Irish descent, 
were establishing a new frontier and protecting their crude homes 
from the nearer threat of the border Indians. Their free pioneer life 
had existed without interference from the King's officials, and they 
were little concerned with the main course of the war on the seaboard. 
Rumors of Ferguson's activities in the upcountry brought forth a few 
adventurous mountain men in the summer of 1780. After fighting 
brief actions with Tories east of the mountains, however, these fron- 
tiersmen retired. Victory by such border fighters at the Battle of 
Musgrove's Mill, on August 18, 1780, caused some of the mountain 
leaders to fear that Ferguson would soon attempt to avenge this defeat. 

Ferguson did not immediately pursue the mountain men. With 
the news of Cornwallis' success at Camden, he had also received urgent 
orders to search the upcountry for the patriots under Col. Thomas 
Sumter. This plan was interrupted by news of Musgrove's Mill and 
by orders calling Ferguson to a meeting in Camden with Cornwallis. 
Here, he was informed of the British commander's determination to 
invade North Carolina at Charlotte in September. Ferguson also 
learned that his Provincial Corps of American Loyalists was to be 
detailed from the post of Ninety-Six to join his Tory militia. Finally, 
he was directed to move with his strengthened force through upper 
South Carolina and across the North Carolina border, crushing the 
remaining patriots and rousing the back-country Tories. His ad- 
vance was intended to protect the rear and western flank of Cornwallis' 
army which reached Charlotte on September 26. 

On September 7 Ferguson pushed across the western North Carolina 
border. At Gilbert Town (the present Rutherford ton), he issued his 
famed threat to the back country which aroused the horde of moun- 




¥ ■ 


A frontier North Carolina settlement similar to those from which came the Kings 
Mountain patriots. Courtesy Charles Scribner's Sons. 


tain men who eventually brought disaster upon him at Kings Moun- 
tain. He expected at Gilbert Town to surprise some of the mountain 
leaders who had retired there for safety after Musgrove's Mill. In 
August, however, they had agreed to return to their homes across the 
mountains and raise a volunteer army to resist Ferguson's advance. 
Remaining at Gilbert Town during most of September, Ferguson 
was a constant menace to the bordering region. From his head- 
quarters, early in the month, he tried to frighten the mountain leaders 
into submission. To carry out this plan, Ferguson paroled Samuel 
Phillips, a prisoner, and sent him into the mountains with a message 
to Col. Isaac Shelby, who commanded the patriot militia of Sullivan 
County, N. C. According to a well-known account, Ferguson, in this 
message, solemnly warned Shelby and the other mountain people "that 
if they did not desist from their opposition to the British arms, he 
would march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders, and lay 
their country waste with fire and sword." He followed this threat 
with action and pursued a patriot party to the slopes of the Blue Ridge 
before returning on September 23 to his temporary base at Gilbert 

The Gathering of the Mountain Men 

At the headwaters of the Watauga, the Holston, and the Nolichucky 
Rivers, in present-day eastern Tennessee, news of Ferguson's actions 
was received with growing alarm by the back-country settlers. Their 
freedom-loving leaders were spurred in their determination to gather 
a volunteer force with all possible speed for a surprise attack that 
would destroy the British invader. Meeting at Jonesboro, Shelby and 
Col. John Sevier, head of the militia in Washington County, N. C, 
hurriedly adopted a plan for immediate action. They sent forth a final 
appeal for volunteers, some of whom would remain behind to protect 
the settlements from the Indians while the main force marched quickly 
after Ferguson. Additional support was sought urgently from Col. 
Charles McDowell and Col. Benjamin Cleveland, who commanded 
other fighting men from the North Carolina border. Pleas for help 
were also sent to the local militia leaders of adjoining Washington 
County, Va. After consultation, it was agreed that Col. William 
Campbell would bring a strong body of Virginia militia. All volun- 
teers were urged to gather by September 25 at Sycamore Shoals, on the 
banks of the Watauga, near the present site of Elizabethton, Tenn. 

On that date over 1,000 of the mountain men assembled at the 
designated meeting place. In appearance, it was a rough but resource- 
ful looking gathering. Many of the fighters wore hunting shirts of 
buckskin, breeches and gaiters of tan home-dyed cloth, and wide- 


brimmed hats covering long hair tied in a queue. Each was equipped 
with a knapsack, blanket, and long hunting rifle; most were mounted 
on horses, but some were on foot. With some had come members of 
their families and friends to see them of? on their dangerous mission. 
Notable among the militia units present was that of Col. William 
Campbell which numbered 400 men. To reach Sycamore Shoals 
many of his men had traveled almost as far as they would in the final 
march to Kings Mountain. 

The gathering was made memorable by the inspiring words of the 
Reverend Samuel Doak, a pioneer Scotch-Irish clergyman of the 
Watauga settlements. On the eve of their departure, he sought the 
Lord's blessing upon these brave men. To inspire and prepare them 
for the hardships they faced, he retold vividly the biblical story of the 
rise of Gideon's people against Midianites and of the defeat of those 
oppressors. At the close of his stirring sermon he urged the mountain 
men to take as their battle cry: "The sword of the Lord and of 

The March From Sycamore Shoals 

On the following day, September 26, the great adventure of the moun- 
tain men began, and they left Sycamore Shoals on their march over 
the mountains. Five days later, after covering about 90 miles, they 
arrived at Quaker Meadows, on the Catawba River. The first part of 
their route followed old hunting and Indian trails, difficult at times 
for passage by either man or beast, and this proved to be the most 
rugged portion of their march to Kings Mountain. 

Nearing the crest of the mountains on September 27 in snow that 
stood above their bootstraps, members of the expedition were alarmed 
by the desertion of James Crawford and Samuel Chambers. Not only 
were the patriots afraid that the deserters would warn Ferguson's 
camp, but also that the traitors would alert the Tories of the region. 
Despite fears of a possible ambush, the patriots crossed the Blue Ridge 
Mountains safely on September 29. The two units, into which the 
volunteer army was divided, passed, respectively, through Gillespie 
Gap and what is believed to have been McKinney's Gap. Shortly 
afterwards, they were reunited at Col. Charles McDowell's plantation, 
at Quaker Meadows, near the present site of Morganton, N. C. Here 
they rested during the evening of September 30. 

In the meantime, Col. Charles McDowell rejoined the patriots on 
September 28. Before the expedition left Sycamore Shoals, he had 
undertaken to secure the support of North Carolina patriots living 
east of the mountains. He brought cheering news on his return. He 
reported to his colleagues, that, according to his latest information, 


The Council Oak, near Morganton, N. C, under which the patriot leaders decided 
to continue the pursuit of Ferguson. (This is a view about 1895; the tree was later 
destroyed in a storm.) 

Ferguson was still at Gilbert Town. Of immediate interest was his 
news that Col. Benjamin Cleveland and Maj. Joseph Winston were 
rapidly approaching with 350 North Carolinians from Wilkes and 
Surry Counties. He also reported rumors that South Carolina patriots 
were gathering under the command of Col. James Williams. 

The arrival of Cleveland and Winston on September 30 and the 
night of pleasant relaxation at the McDowell home raised the spirits 
of the mountain men. The following day, October 1, they continued 
their southward march to a gap of South Mountain near the head- 
waters of Cane Creek. Here they camped during inclement weather 
through October 2. 

While the men rested, the leaders of the expedition met in an evening 
council to review the progress of the march. First, measures were 
adopted to correct disorders in the columns resulting from the weari- 
ness of the march. More important, however, was the election of Col. 
William Campbell to serve as temporary commander of the combined 
volunteer units. In recognition of Col. Charles McDowell's seniority, 
he was entrusted on October 1 with a mission to General Gates' head- 
quarters to request a permanent commander. He was instructed to 
ask for the assignment of either Gen. Daniel Morgan or Gen. William 
Davidson of the American Continental Army. McDowell's regiment 
was turned over to his brother, Maj. Joseph McDowell. 

387076 O— 5( 



Unknown to the patriot expedition, Major Ferguson's army in the 
meantime had hurriedly left Gilbert Town. Two messages that he 
received made this withdrawal advisable. In the first, received Sep- 
tember 25, Lt. Col. }. H. Cruger, commander of the British post at 
Ninety-Six, requested Ferguson to intercept a band of Georgia patriots 
under Col. Elijah Clarke. This group was reported to be moving 
northward to join the main body of mountain men. In the second 
message, English agents in the Watauga settlements furnished Fergu- 


son with the first warning of the rising of his formidable back-country 

Ferguson immediately sent couriers in all directions to enlist the 
support of the Tories within the nearby region. Others were sent to 
call back all Tories who had been temporarily furloughed. On Sep- 
tember 27 he headed south in the direction of Ninety-Six, reaching 
the Green River on September 30. There he received further infor- 
mation concerning the movements of the mountain men from 
Chambers and Crawford who had several days before deserted the 
patriot army. 

From this point Ferguson sent an urgent message to Cornwallis at 
Charlotte calling for reinforcements. Ferguson also informed Corn- 
wallis of his intention to hasten toward Charlotte with the hope that 
his pursuers would be deceived into the belief that Ninety-Six was the 
destination of his retreat. This communication was received by Corn- 
wallis after the battle, too late to be of any help. A second message 
sent to Colonel Cruger requesting 100 men, brought no better results — 
only the terse reply that his garrison totaled but half that number. 

The following morning Ferguson left the vicinity of the mountains 
and marched his corps 12 miles to Denard's Ford of the Broad River. 
Moving at 4 p. m. on October 2, Ferguson crossed the river, marched 
4 miles, and lay all night in an armed camp. On October 3, he 
hastened his march eastward toward Charlotte along a route to the 
north of the main Broad River. Near Buffalo Creek, he camped at 
the plantation of a loyalist named Tate. Here he rested his men 
and awaited expected reinforcements and further information con- 
cerning the movements of the patriots. 

Ferguson was now becoming anxious about the safety of his army. 
In another message to Cornwallis on October 5 from Tate's plantation, 
which was 50 miles from Charlotte, he advised his commander: 

I am on my march towards you, by a road leading from Cherokee Ford, 
north of Kings Mountain. Three or four hundred good soldiers, part 
dragoons, would finish the business. [Something] must be done soon. 
This is their last push in this quarter and they are extremely desolate 
and I c] owed. 

The Pursuit to Kings Mountain 

The American patriot force meanwhile had moved cautiously south- 
ward down Cane Creek toward Gilbert Town on October 3. The 
following day, they learned that Ferguson had withdrawn from the 
town. At the time, he was miles away, camping at Tate's plantation. 
Although the mountain men were disappointed that they could not 
engage Ferguson at Gilbert Town, they did not permit this to dampen 


their hopes. They now took up a relentless pursuit of his retreating 

By the evening of October 4 they had pushed farther southward and 
camped near Denard's Ford on the Broad River. At this point they 
temporarily lost Ferguson's trail. Continuing southward, however, 
on October 5 they completed a march of 12 miles and rested that 
night at Alexander's Ford on the Green River. On October 6 they 
pressed forward another 21 miles to reach the Cowpens. This point 
in South Carolina was so named because of the extensive cattle enclos- 
ures owned there by Hiram Saunders, a wealthy Tory. Ferguson's 
hope that the mountain men would be misled and continue southward 
toward Ninety-Six was a false one. From the Cowpens, the route of 
the frontier army was to be generally southeastward toward the Broad 
River and then north and east to Kings Mountain. 

Along their route to the Cowpens, the mountain men were favored 
by good fortune. They received accurate information from patriot 
supporters in the region regarding the country through which Fergu- 
son's corps had passed in its retreat toward Kings Mountain and 
Charlotte. Their spirits were also spurred by Col. Edward Lacey, of 
South Carolina, who visited the patriot camp on the Green River to 
report that a large body of North and South Carolina militia was ready 
to join the expedition at the Cowpens. 

As early as September 23, Col. James Williams, of South Carolina, 
with the permission of North Carolina patriot authorities, had issued 
a call for patriot recruits from the border of both States. His appeal 
was headed: "A call to arms: Beef, bread, and potatoes," and resulted 
in the assembling of 400 men. Included were the forces under local 
militia leaders, such as William Hill, Edward Lacey, James Haw- 
thorne, Frederick Hambright, William Chronicle, and William Gra- 
ham. When on the afternoon of October 6, these forces were united 
with Colonel Campbell's command at the Cowpens, the combined 
volunteer army numbered approximately 1,790 men. 

At the Cowpens the report of a patriot spy named Joseph Kerr that 
Ferguson was only a few miles ahead in the vicinity of Kings Moun- 
tain, confirmed earlier rumors of the British force's position. To over- 
take Ferguson without delay, the leaders of the patriot expedition 
chose from their various commands a select group of stalwart fighting 
men, all mounted, who immediately rode ahead during the night of 
October 6 towards Kings Mountain. The exact strength of this 
advance party is not known, but it is certain to have exceeded 900 men. 

By this time, Ferguson's army was already encamped upon the top 
of King's Mountain. From Tate's plantation, his route on October 6 
for 16 miles followed the old Cherokee Ferry Road between Buffalo 
and Kings Creek. He crossed a branch of Kings Creek near 
Whisnant's mill site and continued along the old Ridge Road to the 


The Kings Mountain Battleground, showing the north slope of the ridge, on the 
left, and the original Chronicle marker in the background. Sketched by Benson J. 
Lossing during his visit to the area on January 8, 1849. 

main branch of Kings Creek. Fording this creek, Ferguson bore off 
in a northeastward direction toward what is known today as Ham- 
bright's Gap. Later in the day, he led his force through this gap 
toward the vital ridge of Kings Mountain, about three-quarters of a 
mile beyond. 

The decision to post his army on the top of this ridge represented 
a change of his plan to push forward and join Cornwallis at Charlotte. 
It was a decision hard to understand when it is realized how close he 
was to the security of the main British army. It is generally believed, 
however, that Ferguson made the decision deliberately and with the 
definite intention of meeting the patriots in battle. That he felt secure 
in this position is shown from his letter of October 6 to Cornwallis, 
which stated: "I arrived to day at Kings Mountain & have taken a 
post where I do not think I can be forced by a stronger enemy than that 
against us." Ferguson was also known to be a vain man. Operating 
with the largest independent command of his military career, it is 
probable that he could not resist the temptation to seek for himself 
the glory of still another victory. 

Meanwhile, the picked group of mountain men rode through the 
night toward their objective under the cover of a drizzling rain. To 


keep the flint locks of their weapons dry, bags, blankets, or even hunt- 
ing shirts were wrapped around them. To add to their difficulties, a 
number of Campbell's men lost their way in the darkness. By the 
morning of October 7 they were rounded up and the progress of the 
march was delayed very little. 

The Americans approached the scene of the battle with great caution. 
Their path was along the same route as that followed by Ferguson 
on the preceding day. They passed near his campsite at Tate's planta- 
tion where they expected to find a covering force on the east bank of the 
Broad River. To avoid possible discovery at this point, they crossed 
the river at Cherokee Ford, i x / 2 miles below. By the forenoon of 
October 7 the men and their horses showed the effects of the tiring 
overland march from the Cowpens. Despite the suggestion by a 
number of the leaders that a halt be called, Colonel Shelby is reported 
to have replied: "I will not stop until night, if I follow Ferguson into 
Cornwallis' lines." 

It was not long before the patriots learned definitely that Ferguson 
was but a few miles ahead, posted on Kings Mountain. Constantly 
on the alert for Tories who could be expected to warn him of their 
approach, they followed the Ridge Road past present-day Antioch 

'The Battle of Kings Mountain." From a painting by F. C. Yohn. 

Church. From this point they proceeded in a northerly direction to an 
old colonial road leading from North Carolina to what is now York, 
S. C. This road, which ran in a southeastward direction, led them over 
Ponder's Branch and a tributary of Kings Creek to Hambright's Gap, 
not far from the site of the coming battle. 

Kings Mountain ridge, upon which the encounter soon occurred, 
extends 600 yards in a northeasterly direction and forms but a small 
part of the 16-mile Kings Mountain range. The summit of the ridge, 
which was stony, stood about 60 feet above the surrounding country 
and was 60 to 120 feet wide. One of its main disadvantages was that 
the tree line stood almost to its top. This enabled an expert rifleman 
to fire effectively from ample cover on either side of the ridge upon 
individuals on its crest. 

About a mile from the ridge the patriot leaders called a halt, the 
horses were hitched, and final battle instructions given the men. They 
were formed into 2 lines, each consisting of 2 columns, and were 
ordered to proceed on foot. Each detachment was to take a preas- 
signed position at the base of the ridge to complete the encirclement of 
Ferguson's corps. The right flank column was composed of detach- 
ments under Major Winston, Colonel Sevier, and Major McDowell, 
with Winston's force at the head of the column. The right and left 
center columns were commanded respectively by Colonels Campbell 
and Shelby. The left flank column included the forces of Major 
Chronicle, Colonel Cleveland, and Colonel Williams, with Chronicle's 
force at the head of the column. As the march on the ridge began, 
Major Winston was detached with a number of men from Wilkes and 
Surry Counties to make a long detour to the right. It is believed that 
the purpose of Winston's assignment was to close quickly Ferguson's 
most logical line of retreat from the ridge. 

Facing the advancing frontiersmen, Ferguson had a force of 1,104 
men. These included, in his Provincial Corps, some 100 Rangers who 
had been selected from the King's American Rangers, the New 
Jersey Volunteers, and the Loyal American Regiment. The remain- 
der of his force consisted of about 1,000 Tory militia. His officers 
included Capt. Abraham de Peyster, second in command, and Lt. 
Anthony Allaire, adjutant, both from New York. Dr. Uzal Johnson, 
of New Jersey, was surgeon for the British force. 

The Battle of Kings Mountain 

After passing through Hambright's Gap, the frontier detachments 
moved rapidly into their preassigned positions around the ridge. 
Seeking cover in the wooded ravines, the patriots advanced, and Camp- 
bell and McDowell hurriedly passed through the gap at the south- 


western end of the ridge. They took positions respectively on the 
southeastern and eastern slopes. Sevier formed along the western 
slope, while Shelby took position on the northwestern slope. Mean- 
while, the other patriot detachments were forming along the bottom 
of the ravine leading around the northern and northeastern base of 
the ridge. 

Ferguson's main camp was near the northeastern end of the ridge, 
but his picket line extended along the crest nearly to its southwestern 
end. About 3 p. m., as the patriots began to encircle the ridge, Fergu- 
son's pickets sounded the alarm and engaged the advancing moun- 
taineers in a brief skirmish. Then, as they reached their positions, 
Campbell and Shelby almost simultaneously opened the main attack. 
From the crest the Tories and Provincials replied with a burst of 
trained volley firing. But Campbell's and Shelby's men moved 
steadily up the slope Indian fashion, from tree to rock. For 10 to 15 
minutes they maintained their attack, while the other patriot detach- 
ments moved into position around the ridge. 

While the trained Tory force "depended on their discipline, their 
manhood, and the bayonet," the mountain men relied upon their 
skill as marksmen. According to an eyewitness account of this phase 
of the battle "the mountain appeared volcanic ; there flashed along its 
summit and around its base, and up its sides, one long sulphurous 
blaze." Ferguson believed steadfastly in the effectiveness of the bay- 
onet charge, but the terrain at Kings Mountain proved "more assailable 
by the rifle than defensible with the bayonet." 

As the two patriot commands neared Ferguson's lines, the Tories 
charged and drove them down the slope at the point of the bayonet. 
Though they had no bayonets, the patriots rallied at the foot, and the 
unerring markmanship of their deadly Kentucky rifles forced their 
pursuers to retire. Slowly following the retreating Tories and Pro- 
vincials, Campbell's and Shelby's men were again driven down the 
rugged incline by the Tory bayonets. Taking cover behind trees and 
rocks, the two patriot commands again forced the Tories to retreat 
toward the crest. 

Much of the volley firing of the Provincials and Tories, with their 
muskets and a possible scattering of Ferguson breech-loading rifles, 
was aimed too high. It passed harmlessly over the heads of the two 
patriot detachments, which now pushed even higher toward the crest. 
As the Tories began their third bayonet charge upon Campbell and 
Shelby, they were suddenly attacked along the northern and eastern 
slopes by the other patriot detachments. Moving to meet the patriot 
attack from these quarters, the Tories allowed Campbell and Shelby 
to gain and hold the southwestern summit. 

Now completely surrounded, Ferguson's disorganized and rapidly 
decreasing force was gradually pushed toward its campsite on the 


Capt. Abraham de Peyster, second in 
command to Ferguson at Kings Moun- 
tain. Courtesy New York Historical 

northeastern end of the ridge. In this desperate situation, with attacks 
and counterattacks raging on all sides, the piercing note of Ferguson's 
silver whistle urging his forces on continued to be heard above the 
shooting and shrill whoops of the mountaineers. Suddenly, Ferguson 
attempted to cut through Cleveland's lines near the northeastern 
crest, but was struck from his horse by at least eight balls fired by the 
mountain sharpshooters. He died a few minutes later. 

Captain de Peyster assumed command and attempted to rally the 
confused surviving Tories and Provincials, but his efforts were useless 
and he ordered a surrender. During the bloody i-hour engagement 
that raged along the heavily wooded and rocky slopes, the mountaineers 
gained a complete victory. They were veterans of countless frontier 
clashes, even though untrained in formal warfare and, with a slight 
loss of 28 killed and 62 wounded, had killed, wounded or captured 
Ferguson's entire force. 

Order and quiet were not immediately restored to the rugged battle- 
field. A number of patriots continued to fire into the group of defense- 
less Tories, because it was not known that a surrender had begun. 
Others fired upon the Tories to avenge the merciless slaughter of Col. 
Abraham Buford's patriot force by Col. Banastre Tarleton's British 
raiders at the Waxhaws in South Carolina, on May 29, 1780. 

While Dr. Uzal Johnson of Ferguson's corps tended the wounds of 
patriots and Tories alike, others buried Ferguson's body and those of 
the Tory dead on the battlefield. Of the patriots killed in the engage- 
ment, only four — Maj. William Chronicle, Capt. John Mattocks, 
William Rabb, and John Boyd — are buried there. They share a com- 
mon grave at the site of the Chronicle markers. 

387076 O— 56 4 





TO U. S. 29 


AND STATE 161 \ 



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Self Guiding Walking Tour 
Crest of Mountain 

J American Troops 

MMl American Position at Time of Surrender 
AAA British Camp and Position at Time of Surrender 
x Spring 


I I 


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MARCH 1955 N MP- KM -7004 


Gen. Nathanael Greene, American 
Commander in the South, 1780-81. 

Courtesy Emmet Collection, New York 
Public Library. 

The patriots rested on the battleground overnight. On Sunday 
morning, October 8, they started the homeward march. One week 
later they reached BickerstafTs plantation near Gilbert Town with their 
prisoners. The frontiersmen had not dared delay their march, for 

General Greene (left) meets General Gates at Charlotte, N. C, to assume command 
of the Southern Department of the Continental Army in December 1780. 



; . 

-<*fc % 

V v 

'The Surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, 19 October 1781.' 

From a painting by John Trumbull. Courtesy Yale University Art Gallery. 

they feared Cornwallis would send Colonel Tarleton in pursuit to 
avenge Ferguson's defeat. At Bickerstaff's, a court martial was held 
and 30 Tories were condemned to death ; of these, 9 were hanged and 
the remainder spared. Since an investigation showed that these 9 
Tories had robbed, pillaged, and committed more serious crimes, the 
patriots believed they were justified in this action. They also wished 
to retaliate for similar types of rude justice rendered so often in the 
past by the British. 

The patriot detachments reached Quaker Meadows on October 15 
with the prisoners. From this point they were marched northward 
toward Virginia; this was in accordance with the instructions of 
October 12 from General Gates, the American commander in the 
South. On October 26, Colonel Campbell entrusted Colonel Cleveland 
with the safekeeping of the prisoners and, with Colonel Shelby, called 
upon General Gates to determine the fate of the remaining Tories. 

Meanwhile, the volunteer army melted away. Most of its members 
lost no time in returning to their home settlements. As the number 
of troops guarding the prisoners declined, escape became easy. After 
a long period of indecision, the remaining Tory prisoners were finally 
moved to Hillsboro, N. C, and exchanged. The mighty army of 
mountain men, whose very existence confounded Ferguson, now van- 
ished as quietly as it had gathered. 


The Meaning of the Victory 

The lifting of the spirits of the patriots in the Carolinas and the re- 
newal of their will to resist the British invader were important and 
immediate effects of Ferguson's defeat at Kings Mountain. News of 
this decisive victory spread rapidly through the region, bringing out 
stronger patriot militia forces in North Carolina and from nearby 
Virginia. It also revived patriot guerrilla warfare in South Carolina. 
Tories in the Carolinas became greatly discouraged and disorganized. 
The British did not immediately sense the importance of this sharp 
improvement in patriot morale and were inclined to discount the loss 
of the relatively small Tory force under Ferguson. At the headquar- 
ters of the British forces in New York it was even denied that the 
battle had taken place. 

The unexpected success of the patriots at Kings Mountain caused 
a delay of almost 3 months in Cornwallis' northward advance. This 
was a serious loss of time which had a far-reaching effect upon his 
campaign in 178 1. The immediate turn of events in the war in the 
South that came with the victory at Kings Mountain forced Corn- 
wallis to abandon his foothold at Charlotte, in the unfriendly terri- 
tory of North Carolina. Fearful that the patriots would try to regain 
control of key posts in South Carolina, he retreated to Winnsboro, 
in the upper part of that State. Here he took up a defensive position 
during the first part of the winter of 1780-81 to await reinforcements 
sent south by General Clinton. Although ill during most of this 
period, Cornwallis attempted to regain the support of his former Tory 
allies in the region and to plan a second invasion of North Carolina. 

Patriot leaders took advantage of his enforced halt at Winnsboro 
and organized a new offensive in the South. At Charlotte, early in 
December 1780, Gen. Nathanael Greene replaced General Gates as 
American commander in the South, with the resolve to "recover this 
country or die in the attempt." Greene divided his small, ill-equipped 
army into two partisan forces and directed them to distract Cornwallis 
by threatening Camden on his right and Ninety-six on his left. This 
daring plan gave Greene the military initiative in the Carolinas during 

It led to the notable patriot victory at the Cowpens, on January 17, 
and was followed by the strategic American withdrawal across North 
Carolina, which dissipated Cornwallis' strength and strained his supply 
line. On March 15 Cornwallis overtook Greene and forced him from 
the field at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse, but British losses were 
so serious that Cornwallis retired to Wilmington, N. C, for rest and 
new supplies. All of these actions were important links in the chain 
of events after Kings Mountain which led Cornwallis along the road 
to Yorktown. From Wilmington, Cornwallis undertook his dramatic 


Maj. Joseph McDowell, commanding 
patriots from Burke County, N. C. 

campaign in Virginia which ended with his surrender on October 19 
to General Washington's victorious American and French forces at 
the siege of Yorktown. The 6 years of war in the American Revolu- 
tion were over and American independence was assured. 

The Kings Mountain expedition and engagement illustrate the 
characteristic vigor of the untrained American colonial frontiersman 
in rising to the threat of border invasion. These events are memo- 
rable as examples of the personal valor and resourcefulness of the 
American frontier fighter, particularly the Scotch-Irish, during the 
Revolution. The battle is a stirring record of the mountain man's 
unerring marksmanship. It was truly a hunting-rifle victory. 

Patriot Commanders at Kings Mountain 

The patriot leaders at the Battle of Kings Mountain were of Irish, 
Scotch, Welsh, English, French, and German ancestry. Six militia 
colonels and two militia majors, who were in command of the eight 
detachments which surrounded the battle ridge, are selected for par- 
ticular mention. The list includes Isaac Shelby, John Sevier, and 
William Campbell, without whom there would have been no ex- 
pedition to Kings Mountain. Others of importance in the list are 


Benjamin Cleveland, Frederick Hambright, James Williams, Joseph 
McDowell, and Joseph Winston. 

Col. Benjamin Cleveland was born May 26, 1738, near Bull Run 
(later of Civil War fame), in Prince William County, Va. As he grew 
to manhood, he received little if any education beyond the lessons 
that a hazardous life on the frontier could teach. Later, when he 
settled in Wilkes County, N. C, he is reputed to have been the equal, 
if not the superior, of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone as both hunter 
and Indian fighter. 

His life was filled with adventures all of which added to the respect 
and admiration in which he was held by his friends. He despised 
the Tories and often showed his ruthlessness toward them. At 
Bickerstaffs plantation, he is believed to have been most responsible 
for the hanging of 9 Tories after the Battle of Kings Mountain, and 
on other occasions he also displayed his familiarity with the use of 
the rope. 

In later life, he served as a justice of Pendleton County Court, in 
the region of the Tugaloo River, near the western border of South 
Carolina. It has been reported by his associates, among them Gen. 
Andrew Pickens, that he frequently dozed on the bench and it often 
was necessary to awaken him when his snoring interfered with the 
court proceedings. 

With the passage of years, Cleveland is said to have attained the 
impressive weight of 450 pounds. It was always a question, when he 
came as an overnight guest, whether this would prove too much for 
any bed in the house. His excessive weight became a source of con- 
siderable embarrassment and was partly the cause of his developing 
a case of dropsy, with which he suffered for a number of years before 
his death. 

In October 1806, when he was in his 69th year, Cleveland died at the 
breakfast table. He was outlived by his wife, son, and two daughters. 
They buried him in the family burial ground on his old plantation, 
in the forks of the Tugaloo and Chauga Rivers. 

Lt. Col. Frederic\ Hambright, who came with his parents from 
Germany to America at the age of 11, lived from 1727 to 1817. He 
is believed to have received a sound education that fitted him well 
for his activities in later life. About 1755 he moved from Lancaster 
County, Pa., to Virginia where he married Sarah Hardin. In 1760, 
he settled near the South Fork of the Catawba River in North Carolina. 

As Hambright became immersed in the "American melting pot," 
he took part in battles against the Indians and the British. He served 
also in the provincial congress of the State of North Carolina. The 
value of his services was recognized by promotion to the rank of 
lieutenant colonel of militia. 

This was the rank he held in 1780 when he received such a severe 


Maj. Joseph Winston, commanding 
patriots from Surry County, N. C. 

thigh wound in the action at Kings Mountain that he was forced to 
resign his commission. Finally, on March 9, 1817, at the age of 90, 
Hambright died on property he had purchased in later life in the 
vicinity of Kings Mountain. He is buried in the old Shiloh Presby- 
terian Church cemetery, not far from the present park boundary. 

Col. James Williams was born in the late 1730's at the family home 
in Hanover County, Va. Upon the death of both his parents, when he 
was still quite young, he moved to Granville County, N. C, to live with 
his brother John. The latter was an able jurist and helped James to 
gain a little education. 

In his thirties, James Williams moved to Laurens County, S. C, 
where he worked as a farmer, miller, and merchant. Here he was 
chosen a delegate to the provincial congress of South Carolina and 
later made a member of the local Committee of Safety just before the 
outbreak of the Revolutionary War. As he pursued his several voca- 
tions, he made a good living for his wife and eight children. 

After the outbreak of war with England, Williams served ably in 
many actions, including Brier Creek, Stone Ferry, Savannah, and 
Musgrove's Mill. Williams has been compared, in soldierly qualities, 
to "Stonewall" Jackson. He was the only one of the colonels in the 
Battle of Kings Mountain who died from a wound received in that 
action. He was in his early forties. An eminent American historian 


paid him this tribute: "A man of exalted character, of a career brief 
but glorious." 

The McDowell brothers, Charles and Joseph, were representative of 
the landed gentry of the piedmont section of North Carolina. Maj. 
Joseph McDowell (February 15, 1756, to August 11, 1801) commanded 
the troops of his brother at Kings Mountain. Joseph McDowell had 
the further distinction of being among the men of Kings Mountain 
who later helped win the brilliant American victory at the Cowpens. 

Joseph McDowell's home was at the family plantation known as 
"Quaker Meadows." He grew up there and later served in many 
Revolutionary War battles under the watchful eye of his older brother 
Charles. After peace was made, he engaged actively in politics on 
local and national levels. 

While serving as a member of the North Carolina Conventions of 
1788 and 1789, he opposed ratification of the proposed State constitu- 
tion, because it did not include a bill of rights. A few years later 
(1797-99), as a member of Congress, he opposed passage of the Alien 
and Sedition Acts. Because of his stand on these issues and others 
he came to be recognized as one of the leaders of the Democratic 
Republican Party in western North Carolina. "Throughout his life," 
according to a local historian, "he was the idol of the western people 
of North Carolina." 

Maj. Joseph Winston was from a distinguished family of Yorkshire, 
England, a branch of which settled first in Wales. Later, this family 
group migrated to Virginia. Joseph was born on June 17, 1746, one of 

Col. John Sevier, commanding patriots Col. Isaac Shelby, commanding patriots 

from Washington County, N. C. (now from Sullivan County, N. C. (now 

eastern Tennessee). eastern Tennessee). 

seven sons, all of whom served in the Revolutionary War. He received 
a fair education for that day, which prepared him not only for years 
of successful military service, but also for a postwar career in the State 
Legislature and in Congress. 

At the age of 17, he joined a company of rangers and took part in 
an expedition against the Indians on the frontier. This was the begin- 
ning of his military service which ended after the Battle of Guilford 
Courthouse. In that engagement he answered Gen. Nathanael 
Greene's call for troops by coming to his assistance with 100 riflemen. 

Winston represented his district, first Surry County and then Stokes 
County which was formed from it, in the State Senate for eight dif- 
ferent terms. On the national scene, he served in Congress from 1792 
to 1793 and 1803 to 1807. As a presidential elector, he voted for 
Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and James Madison in 18 12. 

Joseph Winston died on April 21, 1815. He was survived by his 
wife and a number of children. Among them were triplet boys who 
lived to become a major general, a judge, and a lieutenant governor. 

Col. Isaac Shelby was born December 11, 1750, near North Moun- 
tain, Md. He was the son of Evan Shelby, who emigrated from Wales 
to America in 1735. In 1771 the Shelby family moved to the Holston 
country in Virginia. Here young Shelby acquired the elements of a 
plain English education and spent much of his time fighting the 
Indians and the British. Between 1775 and 1780, with rank first of 
captain and then of major, he explored the wilds of Kentucky. 

Shelby is said to have had a sturdy, well-proportioned build with 
strongly-marked features, and to have been of florid complexion. He 
had a good constitution that withstood the rigors of frontier life where 
fatigue and privation were every-day occurrences. His bearing was 
impressive, and, although he maintained a dignified reserve, he was 
affable and possessed of a pleasing personality. 

He married Susannah Hart on April 19, 1783, at Boonesborough, Ky. 
The young couple settled on land Shelby had staked out for himself in 
1782, when he was a commissioner to adjust pre-emption claims on 
the Cumberland River. Eleven children were born of their marriage. 

Shelby devoted tireless energy to the creation of the New State of Ken- 
tucky. With the adoption in 1792 of a State constitution by the conven- 
tion of which he was a member, his efforts were rewarded. Shortly 
after, he became the first governor of Kentucky. 

After Shelby left the governor's mansion, he performed several other 
public services. Among the most important of these was his command 
of 4,000 Kentucky volunteers in the American army of Gen. William 
Henry Harrison, during the Canadian campaign in 18 13. He was 
stricken with paralysis in 1820 and died of apoplexy 6 years later. 

Shelby's friend and associate John Sevier (whose name was angli- 
cized from Xavier), likewise was well suited to frontier life. Sevier, 


born to Valentine and Joana Goode Sevier on September 23, 1745, was 
of Huguenot ancestry. The Sevier family lived in the Shenandoah 
Valley of Virginia where they farmed and traded with the Indians. 

Sevier received a haphazard education, but this was in keeping with 
the times. It included schooling at Fredericksburg Academy and the 
Staunton School. At 16 he left school to marry Sarah Hawkins. 
About 7 months after her death in 1780, he married Catherine Sherrill, 
the "Bonny Kate" in song and story of the Tennessee frontier. 

Wherever this leader of varied training, great courage, and personal 
magnetism went, he brought change. Moreover, from the day he 
founded the town of New Market, Va., where he engaged in trade as 
a merchant, innkeeper, and farmer, until his death September 24, 
1815, his actions stirred controversy. 

In December 1773, he moved with his family to the Holston River 
settlements. Here he helped to create the short-lived "State of 
Franklin" of which he became governor. After the "state" was dis- 
solved and the area fully reincorporated into North Carolina, his 
enemies circulated an unfounded report that he had used it to further 
his own fortunes. The report gained such wide acceptance that he 
felt impelled to move far out on the frontier. His was a reputation 
that was made and then damaged, but his fall from grace was only 
temporary. He later took advantage of the movement to form the 
State of Tennessee and, regaining his political influence, became its 
first governor in 1796. 

Among the more unhappy experiences of Sevier's later life was a 
feud that developed between him and an ambitious young judge, 
Andrew Jackson. Although Jackson brought charges of land frauds 
against Sevier, the political career of the Kings Mountain hero, which 
included three more terms as governor between 1803 and 1807, was not 
damaged. These two strong men with conflicting ambitions never 
reconciled their grievances. In the eyes of the electorate, Sevier's 
record of 33 victories in 35 battles was deserving of high regard and he 
was duly rewarded at the polls. 

Sevier lived to be 70 years old and came to be known as "Nolichucky 
Jack." His adventurous spirit characterized him to the end. Even as 
late as 18 12, following the outbreak of America's second war with 
England, he advocated bringing "fire and sword" to the Creek Indian 

Colorful as were the other patriot leaders, William Campbell of 
Virginia, who has been described as a man of commanding appearance, 
was an equally imposing figure. He was born in 1745 in Augusta 
County, Va., to Charles Campbell and the daughter of John Buchanan, 
Sr., who fought in the Wars of Scotland. As William Campbell 
reached maturity, he stood 6 l / 2 feet tall, was amiable when not enraged, 
and devoted to the cause of liberty. 


William Campbell Preston, who is 
said to have closely resembled his 
grandfather, Col. William Campbell, 
patriot commander at Kings Moun- 
tain, of whom no likeness can be 
found. From a portrait by John Wesley 
Jarvis. Courtesy The South Caroliniana 
Library, University of South Carolina, Co- 

William was an only son and received a good education from com- 
petent teachers. When 22 years old, he moved with his mother and 
four younger sisters to Fincastle County, Va. The family settled on 
the fringe of the Holston country on land that had been purchased 
before the death of his father. This family plantation came to be 
known as "Aspenvale" and was near the present town of Abingdon, 

Like Shelby and Sevier, Campbell was interested in both the military 
and civil affairs of his community. Upon the outbreak of the War 
for American Independence, he raised the first militia company in 
southwestern Virginia to support this cause. In September 1775, Capt. 
William Campbell and his company of frontiersmen marched to 
Williamsburg and joined the Virginia regiment commanded by 
Patrick Henry. 

When Campbell realized the British were trying to persuade the 
Cherokee Indians to attack the frontier settlements, he feared for the 
safety of his mother and sisters. Disappointed in his hope of resigning 
his commission and returning home for their protection, he did find 
happiness at the time by winning Elizabeth Henry, a sister of Patrick 
Henry, for his wife. 

In 1777, Washington County was formed from Fincastle and 
Campbell made lieutenant colonel of militia. He was promoted to 
the full rank of colonel in April 1780; this was the rank he held at the 


Battle of Kings Mountain. For his services there he received praise 
from Gates, Washington, the Virginia Legislature, and the Continental 
Congress. Virginia presented him with a horse, saddle, and sword at 
public expense. Lord Cornwallis, with oblique recognition of Camp- 
bell's prowess as a foe, threatened him with instant death should he 
be captured by the British. 

Before Campbell finally resigned his commission, on March 20, 
1781, he and his command, a small force of riflemen, fought well at 
the Battle of Guilford Courthouse. He then enjoyed a brief term of 
office as a member of the House of Delegates from Washington 
County. Within a short time, however, he was recalled to duty, this 
time to serve under General Lafayette in Virginia. His military 
services were considered indispensable and the war was not yet won. 

William Campbell's final service to his country was brief for, on 
August 22, 1781, while on active duty, he died after a short illness. 
He was buried at Rocky Mills, Hanover County, Va. There his body 
remained until 1823, when it was removed to "Aspenvale" for inter- 
ment in the family burial ground. He was survived by a daughter 
and his wife, who remarried and lived until 1825. 

Such were some of the leaders in the drama — successful and honored 
in peace as in war. It is doubtful that any of them, however, reached 
greater heights than during that action, one October day, on the 
slopes of Kings Mountain. 

Maj. Patric\ Ferguson 

On June 4, 1744, Patrick Ferguson was born to Judge and Ann E. Mur- 
ray Ferguson at Pitfour, the family estate in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 
Patrick was one of a family of six children in which he had an older 
and younger brother and three sisters. Ferguson's father, Lord Pit- 
four, the Second Laird, had restored the family fortune lost by the 
First Laird of Pitfour as a result of unfortunate speculation in the 
South Sea Company. His children did not lack for the comforts 
normally enjoyed by the offspring of gentry. They were fortunately 
endowed also with a family background of learning and culture. 

With this background, it is not surprising that young Patrick's 
education was started at an early age. Any hopes or expectations 
that his parents may have had, however, of developing him as a scholar 
were short lived. After finishing the little schooling he received at 
a military academy in London, Ferguson decided to use his ability 
as a horseman and hunter and to become a soldier. 

At the age of 15 a commission was purchased for him, and he entered 
upon active service on July 12, 1759, as a cornet in the Royal North 
British Dragoons. With a slight frame, Ferguson was not an indi- 


vidual of commanding appearance, and it might have been thought 
that he was poorly suited to military service. This shortcoming was 
made up in soldierly determination, and he was also blessed by in- 
heritance with a serious disposition, unusual ability, sound judgment, 
and energy in ample measure. 

From the plains of Flanders and Germany to the spur of the Kings 
Mountain range, where he was killed, Ferguson demonstrated his 
soldiery qualities. For example, on June 30, 1760, he displayed his 
characteristic contempt for danger at the Battle of Minden. In this 
action he returned in the face of enemy hussars to retrieve a pistol 
which dropped from his holster as his horse jumped a ditch. Such an 
action was to be expected of him, if he was to be worthy of his name, 
which was derived from the Gaelic "Feargachus," meaning one of a 
bold, haughty, and fiery disposition. 

It was difficult for his mother to watch Ferguson embark on a mili- 
tary career at such an early age. On August 14, 1762, her brother, 
Maj. Gen. James Murray, wrote her from Quebec: "You must no 
longer look upon him as your son. He is the son of Mars and will be 
unworthy of his father if he does not give proofs of contempt of pain 
and danger." 

Sickness interrupted Ferguson's service in the field from 1762 to 
1768. He was not idle during the period of his recovery in Scotland 
and entered actively into public discussion of the extension of the 
militia laws of England to Scotland. This activity gave him some 
early insight into the problem and prepared him for the role he later 

Bust of Maj. Patrick Ferguson, British 
commander at Kings Mountain. Cour- 
tesy John Wilson Smith, Peterhead, Scotland. 


played in the Carolinas as Inspector of Militia. He enjoyed a second 
leave of absence from military service just prior to the outbreak of the 
Revolutionary War. In this period he pursued an intensive study of 
military science and tactics and developed the Ferguson rifle. 

In 1777 Ferguson was sent to America with the reputation of being 
one of the best, if not the best, marksmen in the British army. At the 
time he held a captaincy, which was attained on September 1, 1768. 
He was in command of a corps of at least 100 riflemen, whom he had 
personally trained in the use of his new breechloading rifle. During 
the earlier years of his service in America, Ferguson participated in 
numerous actions in the North. Among these was the Battle of 
Brandy wine on September 11, 1777, in which he was so severely 
wounded in the right arm that its usefulness was impaired during the 
remainder of his life. 

Ferguson was inured by years of service to such hardships. His 
loyalty was rewarded on October 25, 1779, when he was promoted to 
the rank of major. A few months later, at the start of the British 
expedition against Charleston, he was given the temporary rank of 
lieutenant colonel. His ability and personal magnetism enabled him 
to win the respect of all his associates, and his success as an officer was 
as notable in the South as it had previously been in the North. 

This was his last campaign, and, in its course, he demonstrated a 
sense of fairness and a degree of humanity that earned him the respect 
of many of the people of the South. As the opportunity permitted, 
he attempted to persuade many of these Americans to renew their 
oath of allegiance to the King of England. His success won the ad- 
miration of his associates, among whom was General Stuart of Garth, 
who wrote upon the demise of this soldier: "By zeal, animation, and 
a liberal spirit, he gained the confidence of the mass of people . . ." 

Even more revealing of his character are the following lines written 
from America by Ferguson to his mother to calm her fears for his 
safety : "The length of our lives is not at our command, however much 
the manner of them may be. If our Creator enable us to act the part 
of honour, and to conduct ourselves with spirit, probity, and humanity, 
the change to another world whether now or fifty years hence, will not 
be for the worse." 

The Ferguson Rifle 

Great as Maj. Patrick Ferguson's success was as a soldier, probably his 
most outstanding achievement was the development of the first breech- 
loading rifle to be used by troops in battle. This arm, which is known 
as the Ferguson rifle, was expected by its inventor to bring revolution- 
ary changes to gunnery practices. In the patent, which was granted 


by the British Patent Office on December 2, 1776, Ferguson describes 
it as ". . . an arm which unites expedition, safety, and facility in using 
with the greatest certainty in execution, the two great dessiderata [sic] 
of gunnery never before united." 

This rifle corrected many inadequacies of earlier breechloaders. Its 
center of interest was the screw-plug attached to the trigger guard which 
passed directly through the breech of the barrel from the bottom to 
the top. This plug had from 12 to 14 rapid twist threads so that with 
one turn of the trigger guard the loading aperture in the top of the 
barrel could be opened or closed. The single-screw thread on breech 
plugs of earlier breechloaders made it necessary to rotate the trigger 
guard three or four times to open or close the breech. The Ferguson 
screw-plug had the further advantage of being so designed that it 
never came completely out of its socket. 

For years prior to its invention, gunsmiths had given thought to the 
development of a rapid-firing rifle. Patrick Ferguson believed he had 
invented such an arm ; he hoped it would prove its effectiveness when 
tried under battle conditions in the War for American Independence. 

Firing tests of the new weapon were conducted in the summer of 
1776 at the Blackheath and Woolwich Arsenals, in England. Because 
of its remarkable performance, it was also demonstrated before the 
King at Windsor. In the course of a series of tests, and with a high 
degree of accuracy, Ferguson fired 6 shots per minute at a target 200 
yards distant from a stationary position and 4 shots when advancing 
at a 4-mile-an-hour pace. He then wet the inside of the barrel, and 
fired effectively after a minute to prove the worthiness of this weapon 
in inclement weather. 

Ferguson missed the target only three times during these tests, which 
impressed most favorably the high army officers who witnessed them. 
The tests proved that the Ferguson rifle was a weapon of infinitely 
greater accuracy and rapidity of fire than the "Brown Bess," the regu- 
lation musket of the British army. 

After Ferguson was granted the patent on his rifle, arrangements 
were made for the manufacture of a limited number, probably 200 
in all. The names of all the gunsmiths who produced this arm in 
the last years of Ferguson's lifetime and for a short time thereafter 
are not known with certainty. They were made, however, by Durs 
Egg, Barbar of Newark, Barker of Birmingham, Innes of Edinburgh, 
Newton, and Wilson of the Minories. In all likelihood, Durs Egg 
completed the greater part of Ferguson's order for the new military 
weapon with which to arm his rifle corps. 

Three distinct types of rifle, depending upon the use intended for 
the weapon, were made — those with the proportions of a musket for 
the foot soldier, lighter models for the officers, and sporting arms. 
There was a variation of 48 to 60 inches in the length of these weapons; 


These views of the Ferguson rifle show the unique features of its breech 

and a corresponding variation in the length of the barrels, which were 
either octagonal or round in shape. Their bores ranged in size from 
five-eights to three-quarters of an inch and were slightly larger than 
the usual bore of the long American rifle. Their rifling consisted of 
6 or 8 grooves. These were equally spaced and completed at least 
three-quarters of a turn in the length of the barrel. 

The earliest use of the Ferguson rifle was on American soil by rifle- 
men whom Major Ferguson had personally trained. It was used at 
the Battle of Brandywine and is said to have been used later, with 
possibly a few having been in action at Kings Mountain. The suc- 
cessful use of this rifle in battle is sufficient proof that its inventor had 
made a notable contribution to military technology and developed a 
most effective arm. Unfortunately, it was at least 90 years ahead of 
its time. 

What happened to these Ferguson rifles continues to be a matter of 
conjecture. While Ferguson convalesced after the Battle of Brandy- 
wine, his rifle corps was disbanded and his rifles put in storage by 
Sir William Howe. Later, an undetermined number were withdrawn 
from storage for further service. Though it can be assumed a number 
were destroyed in action and others carried off for use as new hunting 
rifles, a large number still remain unaccounted for. 

Today there are only a few known specimens of this arm. Al- 
though those still in existence are largely in private ownership, there 
are several on public display in America. Two such arms are in 
the National Museum in Washington, one of which was originally 


given by Ferguson to Frederick de Peyster, the most important ex- 
ample in this country. The Rudolph J. Nunnemacher Arms Collec- 
tion at Milwaukee, Wis., also has one of these weapons, as does the 
museum at the United States Military Academy, West Point, N. Y. 

The National Park Service is fortunate in owning two Ferguson 
rifles. One of these, perhaps the second most important example in 
the United States, is in the museum at Morristown National Historical 
Park, Morristown, N. J. It is marked with the initials P. F., indicating 
it was very probably inspected personally by Patrick Ferguson. The 
other is in the Kings Mountain National Military Park Museum. 
Though one occasionally hears of a Ferguson rifle for sale, their 
acquisition is a collector's dream. 

your Guide to the Area 

The battlefield ridge is the most outstanding feature of the park. 
Beginning at the Administration and Museum Building, numbered 
markers have been placed at the principal points of interest along the 
trail. These markers correspond with the numbered paragraphs 
below and with the numbers on the guide map. For the best story 
on the ground, it is suggested that you fellow them in the order given. 


the self-guiding, walking tour of the battlefield ridge, you will enjoy 
a visit to the park museum in this building. Colorful displays and 
exhibits explain simply and clearly the causes and results of the Battle 
of Kings Mountain and the turn of events that followed it in the 
Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. A series of exhibits 
trace the origin of the mountain men, tell the story of their uprising, 
and show their route of march to Kings Mountain. Other displays 
explain the progress of the British invasion of the South and the 
movement of Ferguson's corps before the battle. 

Among the featured exhibits are the battlefield diorama, typical 
arms of the mountain men, an electric map showing routes of the 
forces engaged in the battle, and examples of the Kentucky and 
Ferguson rifles. The diorama is a three-dimensional reenactment in 
miniature of a typical Kings Mountain battle scene. The original 
Ferguson rifle came from Scotland and is one of the park's prized 

2. the first shot. Close to this location Tory soldiers fired upon the 
advancing frontiersmen. This was the first warning to Ferguson 
that he was about to be engaged in battle. Shortly before, other 
patriot units passed here toward assigned positions on the southwest 


and southeast slopes of the ridge. They followed an Indian trail 
closely paralleled by the route of the main park drive. 

3. the battle begins. The first shot of the battle was the signal for 
all the patriot units that were in position around the base of the ridge 
to commence their attack. Here Sevier and Campbell merged their 
forces as they engaged Ferguson's Provincial troops in bitter hand-to- 
hand fighting. They gained ground, only to lose it again, as they 
were repulsed by repeated bayonet charges. But by their heroic action 
near this spot, patriot troops on the northeast end of the ridge were 
enabled to complete the encirclement of Ferguson's position. 

4. highest peak of the battle ridge. This spot marks the south- 
western end of Ferguson's battle position, which extended the entire 
length of the ridge. The Centennial Monument erected in 1880 to 
commemorate the American patriots who defeated Ferguson is also 
located at this point. It is placed upon ground that was overrun by 
the men of Shelby, Sevier, and Campbell who, by their gallantry, 
forced Ferguson's troops to retire toward the British campsite. 

5. patriot advance continues. Bitterly fighting all the while, Tory 
forces were gradually pushed back along the top of the ridge in this 
area. Here Ferguson had hoped to establish a position from which he 
could better withstand the relentless attack of the mountain men. 

The Chronicle Markers. On the left is the original stone, erected 1815, which 
was replaced with the newer marker in 1914. These stones mark the graves of 
Maj. William Chronicle, Capt. John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd; 
patriots killed in the battle. 

r. f 

6. site of the surrender. After constant attack from all sides for 
nearly an hour, Ferguson's troops were forced into the clearing at this 
point which has changed little since 1780. At this time Ferguson was 
killed and the command passed to Capt. Abraham de Peyster, who 
very shortly realized that further resistance was useless and in this 
area surrendered the remaining Tory troops. 

The impressive monument or obelisk at this location was erected in 
1909 by the United States Government to memorialize the significant 
American victory at Kings Mountain. 


and in the late stages of the engagement, Ferguson, riddled with at 
least eight balls, fell from his white charger. One battle account 
states that one of these balls was fired by Robert Young, who is re- 
ported to have said in referring to his rifle, as he took aim and fired 
at Ferguson: "I'll try and see what Sweet-Lips can do." The small 
marker stands where the British commander is believed to have been 
mortally wounded. 

8. Ferguson's grave. This was first marked by the granite block to 
the northeast of the pile of stones. The tablet on the opposite side 
was dedicated October 7, 1930, by President Hoover on the occasion of 

The Centennial Monument, erected in 
1880 through public and private sub- 

the Sesquicentennial Celebration. The rock pile originates from 
the Scottish tradition of placing a cairn over the grave of a fallen 

9. the chronicle markers. On July 4, 1815, Dr. William McLean 
visited the battlefield and dedicated the gray soft stone on your left. 
It stands at the grave of his friend, Maj. William Chronicle, who is 
buried here with Capt. John Mattocks, William Rabb, and John Boyd. 
It is one of the oldest battlefield markers in the country. One hundred 
years later, in 1914, the Kings Mountain Association of Yorkville 
(now York), S. C, erected the newer marker to preserve the time-and- 
weather-worn inscription on the original. 

10. spring. One of the principal advantages of Ferguson's campsite 
was its water supply which continues to originate from several sources. 
This is one of two springs to which the wounded of both sides 
are believed to have made their way for water. About 200 yards 
ahead, where the trail makes a hairpin turn to the right, you will pass 
a second spring on your left which was probably also used during the 

11. positions of shelby and sevier. As you move up the trail to the 
upper parking area, you pass through the lines of Shelby and Sevier, 
coorganizers of the patriot march to Kings Mountain. Along the way 
are points where they began their attacks which were timed with the 
movements of Campbell's men on the opposite slope of the ridge. 

Establishment of the Par\ 

Kings Mountain National Military Park was established by act of 
Congress on March 3, 193 1. This was the climax of years of effort by 
individuals and patriotic organizations to win national recognition 
for the area. 

A series of dedicatory celebrations had previously focused public 
attention upon it. The first of these celebrations, in 18 15, was primarily 
local in nature. It did, however, mark the date when the first memo- 
rial stone was placed on the battlefield. This was in memory of 
Major Chronicle and three other South Fork boys, who were buried 
in a common grave. It was also the forerunner of the more elaborate 
celebrations held in 1855, 1880, 1909, and 1930. Despite inadequate 
means of travel and few access roads, they were all well attended. 

The centennial observance of 1880 is of particular interest. To 
insure a successful celebration, the Kings Mountain Centennial As- 
sociation was formed in 1879, composed largely of men from the 


towns of Kings Mountain and York. These citizens sponsored the 
purchase of 40 acres of the battleground and the erection of an appro- 
priate monument. Generous contributions were received from in- 
dividuals and the State Legislatures of North and South Carolina, 
resulting in the acquisition of most of the battlefield ridge and the 
construction of the Centennial Monument. 

Soon after the celebration, the Kings Mountain Centennial Associ- 
ation was disbanded. Ownership of the battleground was transferred 
to the Kings Mountain Chapter of the Daughters of the American 
Revolution, with headquarters in York, S. C. These patriotic ladies 
used their influence to win the support of the Congress of the United 
States for the idea of establishing a national historical shrine at the 
battleground. They were encouraged also by increased public sup- 
port for their project. When the Congress appropriated $30,000 on 
June 16, 1906, for the erection of a new monument, the reaching of 
their goal was not too far away. The monument was completed in 
time for the celebration of 1909 and was dedicated before dignitaries 
from Tennessee, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. It is an 83-foot 
obelisk of white marble and stands as a symbol of the recognition by 
the Federal Government of the significance of the Battle of Kings 

The celebration of October 7, 1930, provided the final impetus to 
the movement for the establishment of a national military park at 

Marker at the grave of Maj. Patrick £1 
Ferguson. The mound of stones fol- 
lows a Scottish custom of placing rock 
cairns over graves. 



Kings Mountain. One year ahead of the celebration, President Hoover 
was invited to be the guest of honor. His address at the celebration 
was heard by an estimated 80,000 people and wide press coverage of 
the speech brought nationwide attention to Kings Mountain. His 
presence also gave the prestige of his office to the long-standing pro- 
posal that the area was deserving of greater national recognition. 

Although Kings Mountain National Military Park was finally 
established 151 years after the battle it commemorates, the Federal 
Government did not at first own any of the land included in the park. 
In 1933, responsibility for the development of the site was transferred 
by Presidential executive order from the War Department to the 
National Park Service of the Department of the Interior. 

On September 24, 1935, the Kings Mountain chapter of the 
Daughters of the American Revolution, located in York, S. C, donated 
the 40 acres of the battleground to which the chapter held title. This 
was the nucleus of the park, and additional lands acquired between 
1936 and 1940 raised the total holdings within the area to the present 
4,012 acres. 

How to Reach the Parl{ 

The park is best approached over North Carolina Route 216 from 
U. S. 29, which is 4 miles to the north, and is equidistant from 
Charlotte, N. C, and Spartanburg, S. C. It is also accessible over 
South Carolina Route 161 from York, S. C. 

About Your Visit 

You may obtain further information about this and other areas of the 
National Park System at the Administration and Museum Building 
near the main parking area. With the exception of Christmas and 
New Year's Day, this building is open daily, with museum hours from 
8:30 a. m. to 5 p. m. on weekdays and from 9:30 a. m. to 6. p m. on 
Sundays. Park personnel is available at this building to assist in- 
dividuals and organized groups of visitors. To assure such assistance 
to large groups, it is advisable that arrangements be made in advance 
with the superintendent of the park 

A beautiful amphitheater is situated a short distance east of the 
battlefield ridge, near the main park road. An outdoor historical 
drama on the Battle of Kings Mountain has been presented here in 
late summer during recent years. Adjoining the park on the east 
is Kings Mountain State Park where you may picnic and swim in 






Museum and Administration Building, Kings Mountain National Military Park. 

Related Areas 

Three other areas administered by the National Park Service are 
related to this park as a result of the sequence of events set in motion 
by the Battle of Kings Mountain. They are Cowpens National Battle- 
field Site, near GafTney, S. C, Guilford Courthouse National Military 
Park, near Greensboro, N. C, and Colonial National Historical Park, 
Yorktown, Va. 

To the west, the Blue Ridge Parkway, also administered by the 
National Park Service, runs through a part of the country which many 
of the mountain men crossed en route to the engagement at Kings 


Kings Mountain National Military Park is administered by the 
National Park Service of the United States Department of the Interior. 
A superintendent, whose address is P. O. Box 31, Kings Mountain, 
N. C, is in immediate charge. 


Suggested Readings 

Alden, John Richard, American Revolution 1775-1783, The New 
American Nation Series, Harper and Brothers, New York, 1954. 

Bailey, J. D., Commanders At Kings Mountain, Gafrney, S. C, 1926. 

Draper, Lyman C, Kings Mountain And Its Heroes, Peter G. Thom- 
son, Cincinnati, 188 1; Dauber and Pine Bookshops, New York, 1929. 

Ferguson, James, Two Scottish Soldiers, "A Soldier of 1688 and Blen- 
heim, A Soldier Of The American Revolution," D. Wyllie & Son, 
Aberdeen, 1888. 

George, J. N., English Guns and Rifles, Small Arms Technical Pub- 
lishing Company, Plantersville, S. C. 

Scofield, John, "Patrick Ferguson's Rifle," The American Rifleman, 
December, 194 1. 

Wallace, Willard M., Appeal to Arms, "A Military History of the 
American Revolution',' Harper & Brothers, New York, 1951. 







I 30 505 JOSTTN'S 


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